WASHINGTON — With September right around the corner, it’s just about time to send the little ones back to school. And while that might be exciting news for parents ready to get everyone back on a schedule, it can also come with its challenges — endless after-school activities, forgotten history projects, and yes, more traffic.
Author and parenting expert Leslie Morgan Steiner shares some of her best tips for easing the family back into the school routine.
Don’t obsess over back-to-school prep
During the weeks leading up to Labor Day, a lot of parents focus on getting their kids’ sleep habits back on track for the school year. But Steiner says there’s nothing wrong with leaving this until the last minute.
“There’s not all that much you can do in advance — especially not more than a day or two in advance,” she said.
Steiner recommends parents also hold off on back-to-school clothes shopping until the kids are settled in school. She says maybe get one outfit before hand, but there’s no need to stuff their closets with fall clothes in August.
Holding off until the crowds die down will ensure better deals, plus your kids can make better choices based on the styles they’re seeing in school.
Start taking good care of yourself
Parents are the ones that hold it all together when things get crazy, so Steiner says it’s important to focus on taking good care of yourself this time of year.
“Focus on your own sleep and shoring up your own sleep … because if you can be a steady anchor during this crazy, chaotic transition, everything is going to go better,” Steiner said.
And avoid the temptation to ramp up your own workload around back-to-school time.
“We all have this September back-to-school mode, back-to-work mode, and I often think, ‘OK, this is the time for me to dig into my work.’ And I would say resist that … Wait until your kids really get settled.”
In fact, back-to-school week is a good time to take extra time off from work if you can spare it. There are always last-minute things that need to be purchased, plus being able to spend a few extra minutes talking with others after morning drop-off and before afternoon pickup is a great way to meet parents who could be helpful with carpools and playdates down the road.
Keep activities organized
Whether you prefer to use a handwritten calendar, a series of sticky notes or an app, it’s essential to get organized. Steiner says it’s also important to delegate some of the organizational responsibility to the kids — no matter their age.
“Because it really is the kids’ responsibility, more and more, to keep track of their own schedules and to know what they need. But give them a little bit of a reminder — and not too far in advance, but maybe a week in advance,” she said.
A basic notebook or assignment pad that allows them to write things down should do the trick.
Keep mornings simple
Anything you can do to make mornings less hectic will make for a smoother start to the day. Have your kids pick out their clothes the night before, pack lunches ahead of time and serve a simple breakfast.
“Just try to keep it very, very simple, especially the first couple of days, because it’s going to be crazy, you’re going to feel squeezed,” Steiner said.
Tackle lessons not taught in the classrooms
The early weeks of school are an ideal time to tackle some more big-picture topics that aren’t always taught in the classrooms.
“We get so caught up in the frenzy of the practicality of raising kids that we forget about the things that really matter,” Steiner said.
Bring up difficult subjects, such as bullying, inappropriate comments, cheating and even sexual assault, and let your kids know they can come to you with questions and concerns about these topics throughout the school year.
“[They’re] not the most pleasant subjects to tackle, but this is a really good time to do it,” Steiner added.
Most of all, enjoy it
“These back-to-school moments are really quite precious for everybody, and the more planning you do in advance and the lower your expectations in some ways, the easier it’s going to be,” Steiner said.
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